Palpitations, Flutters And A-Fib After Heart Valve Surgery?

By Adam Pick on June 13, 2009

I just received a great question from Steve about heart flutters and palpitations following heart valve surgery. In fact, Steve’s question brought back a very distinct memory from my own heart surgery recovery.

Steve writes, “Hi Adam – I had my aortic valve replaced, with a pig valve, 7 weeks ago today.  During the past couple of weeks my heart is very fluttery and I feel like I have motion sickness.  It lasts for most of the day and is gone after a good nights rest.  Did you ever experience something like this? And, is this something I should worry about? I hate calling my doctor for something that is normal. Thanks, Steve”


Small Heart With Sinus Rhythm


I have a couple thoughts for Steve…

First, something similar to this happened to me six months after my double, heart valve surgery. I was at work when… All of a sudden, my heart felt like it was flip-flopping and beating upside-down in my chest.

Sixty seconds later, I was on the phone with Dawn, the nurse of my cardiologist. Dawn was convinced it was nothing serious… just heart palpitations. She told me to call her if the palpitations continued.

Dawn also said, “As for heart palpitations, there really is nothing you can do right now unless it becomes very frequent. Most people have heart palpitations every once in a while – even if they did not have cardiac surgery.”

So you know, Harvard Medical School just released an interesting story on heart palpitations, which states that, “Palpitations—the sensation that the heart has started to race or pound, or feels like it has skipped a beat—are usually caused by a harmless hiccup in the heart’s rhythm. Sometimes, though, palpitations reflect a problem in the heart or elsewhere in the body. Sorting out worrisome palpitations from harmless ones isn’t always easy, reports the Harvard Heart Letter.

This article continues, “If your palpitations aren’t accompanied by dizziness or other symptoms and if you don’t have a valve disorder or other structural problem with your heart, that usually means palpitations are benign.”

However, as you will remember Steve noted that he did experience motion sickness at the same time he felt his heart flutter.

That brings me to the second point of this blog…

If you have a concern or question about your health condition, please contact your cardiologist or surgeon. You are their patient. You have a right to have your questions answered. Please do not hesitate to contact your physician even if that call is for “peace-of-mind” and to hear that magic phrase, “That’s normal!”

Remember, “Safe not sorry!” The last thing Steve, or anybody, needs is to have some form of undetected atrial fibrillation (A-Fib) which might result in a stroke after heart surgery.

That said, I encouraged Steve to contact his cardiologist immediately.

Keep on tickin!

Written by Adam Pick
- Patient & Website Founder

Adam Pick, Heart Valve Patient Advocate

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Steve Rutledge says on June 14th, 2009 at 1:37 pm


I did contact my Cardiologist and everything checked out OK. He did say, however, that if it happened again I might have to wear a “Event Monitor” for awhile. Thanks for your response to my email.


Kerrigan says on June 14th, 2009 at 3:26 pm

My personal experience was having infrequent “skipping beats” and slight discomfort in the center of my chest for about 8 weeks after my aortic valve and ascending root replacement surgery.
As I exercised more in the 12-week Cardio Rehab program (HIGHLY recommended) it became less frequent and now doesn’t happen unless I get stressed out.
In my case it was determined to be “normal and expected” and a not-to-worry situation.
Each person’s case is different.
When in doubt, counsult the experts.

Jean Moore says on June 14th, 2009 at 5:55 pm

I had an Aortic Valve replacement 2 months ago. I ended up needing a pace maker due to
unstable heart. For almost 6 weeks after I was in and out of atrial fib. Finally had to go to
the hospital and have drugs administer to try to get my heart back in sinus rhythm. Thank
goodness it worked after 2 days.
Since my valve replacement I have had terrible bouts of depression and panic attacks. The
more I’ve read up on it, I think I have Post Traumatic Stress. Has anyone else out there suffered from this?
I had a septuple by-pass surgery 10 years ago and did not experience any of these problems.

Angeline says on June 14th, 2009 at 9:42 pm

Thank you it makes sence now! I have a question after heart surgurey had a new aortic value replacement cow. I am going for surgurey for my knee it is finish I am 77 years old how long should I wait is that a very dangerous operation? Should I be worried?

Nancy says on June 15th, 2009 at 12:08 am

I have had heart problem all my life, numerous issues-one of them palpitations and then in past 3yrs A-fib occured…it was scary and they tried to give me meds but didnt work..had to have my heart ‘shocked’ back to sinus rythmn..I was ok for awhile and then happened again and then had to have heart ‘shocked’ again…I recently had my tricuspid valve replaced as well as MAZE procedure done to help stop the A-Fib.
I was told that though had this done, the A-Fib could come back and then would have to have heart shocked again and then should even out and be ok. I was just recently taken off amiodorone for the A-fib and so far so good..keeping fingers crosses will stay in sinus rythmn..

Jerry says on June 15th, 2009 at 1:21 am

I also had an aortic value replacement(pig) and a Big Maze procedure last May. I believed the AFIB would automatically stop after the Big Maze Operation, but as it turned out I was wrong. In the hospital my physician told me that I could not be placed in sinus rhythm, during and after the operation, because I had a blood clot in my heart.

I believe it was something like 3 months before I went to see an Electrophysiologist as recommended by my cardiologist and Surgeon. He, the electrophysiologist, attempted to place my heart back in rhythm by using the defibrillator. Eventually, like a month later I had another procedure completed by him, and what I have been told is that he basically fined tuned the Maze procedure. This procedure took approximately 3 or 4 hours. I was than given a 7 day monitor to see if I was in or out of AFIB. It came out that I no longer had AFIB. I’m told that this procedure works 80% of the time.

I have been AFIB free since than.

For the ensuing

Dave Richards says on June 15th, 2009 at 8:17 am

Steve, I came out of double valve repair last July in A-Fib. Meds controlled it and coumadin kept clots from building up. I was finally cardioverted six weeks after surgery and went back to normal sinus rhythm. After that, skipped beats became very prevalent, and a heart monitor recorded 25,000 skips or extra beats each day. Needless to say, that’s a potentially dangerous number. Two weeks later I was in the EP lab undergoing a cardiac ablation. Today, I get about 200 skips per day, and my ejection fraction increased from 40% to 55%, which is close to normal. Adam gave you important advice: don’t suffer through this quietly. Have your doctor monitor your condition to make sure that you remain in top form.

Shelby Hudgens says on June 15th, 2009 at 11:08 am

Three weeks after a successful Ross Procedure, I was hit with preventricular contractions that changed to atrial fibs a few days later. These lasted about a week, but were continuous night and day. That was about seven months ago and I have had no further issues. My experience is once they go away, they stay away. Good luck.

Allan says on June 17th, 2009 at 1:16 am

About 4 weeks after my aortic valve replacement in October last year I suffered from two occurrences of atrial fibrillation. I spent the night in hospital after the second one. I was put on Sotacor which has prevented the recurrence of these attacks.

Sue weedon says on June 17th, 2009 at 8:33 pm

I had a aortic valve replacement 2 months ago. I’m having trouble with the
A-Fib. My surgeon is telling me in 3 month the A-fib should go away. The
A-fib is less but was started on Dioxgins. I take commudin daily due to
the mechanical valve. If continue I will suggest to my Dr for outpt for IV
drug. I go for EKG weekly to monitor the A-fib and the last two was normal
sinus rhytm. I glad to read the comments and I’m not alone because I was told this is common with AVR since it your electrical system.

Maggie Lichtenberg says on June 18th, 2009 at 11:41 am

I would like to address Nancy’s post of June 15th. I, too, have had a tricuspid valve repair (Ebstein’s Anomaly) and MAZE procedure in 2003. My A-fib and flutter has come and gone over recent years, but never painfully as it did before my open heart surgery. I’ve had ablations, I’ve been cardioverted. And guess what: now I am in irregular rhythm 24/7 and it does not bother me. Antiarrythmic meds don’t work for me, so they are out. I have, in fact, just gotten used to it! I still hike, but more slowly. So the question for your cardiologist is, why are physicians so concerned about stopping A-fib? Might you have the consequence of A-fib that isn’t dangerous, just bothersome? Warm regards, Maggie Lichtenberg

pawan says on April 5th, 2011 at 3:51 pm

I underwent double valve replacement surgery in Oct 2005, i am 31 yrs old. Everything was fine untill recently I stated experiencing palpitations followed by what I can call sudden rush of blood to the back of my head. Is this something serious. I am worried.

Andy says on November 1st, 2017 at 4:29 pm

Hi I am a 61 year old male and I had a triple bypass 2 weeks ago since then I have been back to hospital with rapid heart beat and high heart rate which they managed to bring down after taking a tablet they gave me and they sent me home with a corse of tablets to take but today 2 days into my tablets I am having palpatations that last hours is this normal?

Jenn says on September 17th, 2018 at 3:53 pm

i had aortic root replacement about 2 months ago. I still get really bad palpatatons like it’s skipping a beat or pounding so hard. Not as bad as when I first got out of surgery. But I’ve always had issues wth palpatations that’s partly why I’m on a beta blocker. metotoprol. If they don’t stop happening your doctor may want to put you on something like that even if it’s temporary. Looks Like I’ll be on that one and now the coumadin for the rest of my life. I hope it gets better for you, it’s a pain in the butt to always be feeling that.

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